Criminal Justice

Chiquita Paid for Left- and Right-Wing Terror, and Victims of Both Demand Justice

I posted last November about legal proceedings against Chiquita for protection money paid to Colombian right-wing paramilitary organizations (AUC) that had been designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. Two stories this week shed more light on the situation and are worth checking out.

First, last week's 60 Minutes broadcast included a segment called

Fighting Recidivism with Resurrection

On Easter Sunday sermons about new life and transformation, resurrection and redemption abound. At our church we celebrated the baptism of a young man living in a half way house and doing work-release in our community. The genuine hugs and welcome from the mostly black congregation for this young white man were warm and genuine. One church member sponsors work release, another church member picks up the four to five who come for events and church, and this young man felt touched by God in [...]

Acts of Strength

I need you, you need me. We’re all a part of God’s body. Stand with me ... I need you to survive.”

Alma, a 37-year-old woman with compassionate eyes and smooth skin, stood on the chapel stage of the Dwight Correctional Center in central Illinois singing these words, written by composer Hezekiah Walker. It was the second performance of an original play called Phenomenal Women: Our Past Does Not Reflect Our Future, created by nine incarcerated women. Alma sang to her fellow inmates sitting in the audience on wooden pews, looking at them with deep love, offering the gift of herself. She seemed full of confidence and radiance. Having directed the play, I sat in the front row, feeling gratitude and wonder wash through my spirit.

Later that day, I read a newspaper article about our performance, which included interviews with the actresses. When I direct performances, I never ask the women why they are incarcerated, so I was astonished when I read, halfway through the article, “... Alma Durr, who said she accidentally shot her son when she attempted to take her own life.” Tears streamed down my face.

Months later, I sat with Alma in the solarium of the correctional center. The room was full of windows letting in midday light. We spoke about her childhood of sexual abuse, her life of prostitution, and her past addiction. But we also spoke about that second performance, when she sang with such joy. “I’ll never forget how beautiful you were,” I said. She smiled and said, “You know, you say that but I never felt that way in my life. But that day I did feel beautiful. I felt like I was on top of the world.”

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Sojourners Magazine November 2007
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What's In a Name? (Parole if you're good.)

Here at the Sojourners Ethics Desk—with a staff of tireless watchdogs who, while not actual dogs, can't help it if one leg wiggles involuntarily during a nice tummy rub—we keep a keen eye on the nation's government employees, particularly those whose service to the public includes lengthy fact-finding trips inside courthouses and prisons. Lately, it has come to our attention that a pattern has developed in the scandals involving officials, for whom was written the phrase "absolute power corrupts absolutely." (It's also true that "a lot of power corrupts a lot" and "a smidge of power corrupts just a tad." But I digress.) While the charges against them range from influence peddling to lying to a grand jury, each of the alleged perpetrators has one thing in common: A nickname.

The list is short, but substantial: Former top CIA official Kyle "Dusty" Foggo is under investigation for his questionable relationship with defense contractors. Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham is in prison for steering federal contracts to friends. (He first raised suspicion after naming his new yacht "The Ill-Gotten Booty.") White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby was found guilty of giving false testimony to a federal prosecutor. And Robert "Hair-Looks-Fake" Ney was convicted of taking bribes from lobbyists.

Okay, we made up that last one. But sometimes you have to bend the truth to make an important ethical point. (And, no offense, but Rep. Ney does have a look that says to passing lobbyists, "I REALLY like to golf, hint hint. And please stop staring at my hair.")

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Sojourners Magazine May 2007
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